Australia

‘We all have to get better’: AFL Commission chair backs Gillon McLachlan over racism saga

The chair of the AFL Commission Richard Goyder has backed chief executive Gillon McLachlan following calls for his resignation in the wake of recent instances of racism within the game.

Former Collingwood and Melbourne player Héritier Lumumba took to social media to criticise McLachlan, following Taylor Walker’s racist slur against North Adelaide player Robbie Young.

Walker was banned for six AFL games, and will also have to donate $20,000 to an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander program in South Australia.

He also made a pre-recorded public apology, which was criticised by members of the AFL’s Indigenous community.

In a series of posts on Twitter, Lumumba took aim at the governance of the AFL, saying it’s not qualified to educate players on issues of racism.

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“It’s time for Gillon McLachlan to stand down and for the AFL to be led by someone who has the credentials & vision to address the systemic issues it has,” he tweeted.

“McLachlan is an individual whose family has inherited massive generational wealth from stolen land. He‘s beyond privileged.

“McLachlan has never demonstrated that he’s gained insight on racism through his own colonial legacy, or the legacy of the AFL as an institution.

“The AFL has constantly hidden behind the failures of clubs instead of showing real leadership. McLachlan was incapable of responding effectively to the Adam Goodes saga, and continually avoided any direct criticism of McGuire.”

Richard Goyder says steps will be taken to improve education around racism within the league.(

Getty Images: Kelly Defina

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Speaking on the ABC, Goyder acknowledged the hurt caused by Walker’s actions but threw his support behind McLachlan to continue in his role.

“Gil is right up there in terms of integrity, his capacity and there’s no better person to lead at an executive level, the AFL, than Gil McLachlan on every front, including this front,” he said.

“I feel incredibly fortunate to chair a commission with a CEO like Gil McLachlan.

“And that is evidenced in Héritier’s tweets, with the impact it’s had on people like Eddie Betts.”

AFL clubs to be forced to employ Indigenous liaison officers full-time

Mr Goyder said the AFL was implementing changes to increase the level of education and understanding within the league.

“We are going to make sure that every AFL club has Indigenous liaison people,” he said.

“We will make room in the soft cap and potentially there’ll be a stick if not, so we’ll make sure that happens.”

The AFL will also consider what penalties are handed down to individuals who engage in racial vilification.

“There’s always a debate, what’s the penalty, what’s the right thing,” Goyder said.

“We just all have to get better. The hurt across the community is significant.

“There’s so much to celebrate with our Indigenous culture and these things just detract from that.”

Finals location still up in the air

The AFL continues to weigh up where the grand final will be played, as the COVID-19 outbreak forces extended lockdowns along the east coast.

The AFL trophy sits on the grass at the Gabba with empty stands and a set of goalposts in the background.
The AFL hopes to have a decision within weeks on where this year’s grand final will be played.(

Getty Images: Bradley Kanaris

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There hasn’t been a decision on abolishing the pre-finals bye, but it remains an option as the league tries to bring the season to completion.

“It’s certainly an option we’re looking at because possibly two of the eight teams have been on the road for a while,” Goyder said.

“This Delta strain of coronavirus is causing sort of a bit of chaos around the place, so there is certainly a school of thought that maintaining momentum is important.”

The financial implications of staging finals without crowds are also a consideration, with the current COVID-19 outbreak, which is forcing the Sydney Swans and GWS Giants to be housed outside of New South Wales, costing the league around $6 million a week.

But Goyder said there is not a percentage of crowd capacity that will determine if the grand final will be moved from the MCG.

The AFL hopes to have a decision within weeks as to where the grand final will be played.


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